2886 Tamiami Trl E, Naples, FL
NAPLES — The first McDonald’s in the Naples area is getting more than an extreme makeover.
Demolition started Wednesday morning at the restaurant, in Gulf Gate Plaza near the intersection of U.S. 41 East and Bayshore Drive. A more sleek and efficient McDonald’s will take its place.
“We’ve had customers coming by taking photos. Everyone says, ‘Wow,’ when they see the building torn down,” said Mike Adams, a co-owner of the store. The demolition only took a few days. Construction will begin on the new restaurant next week, Adams said.
“We hope to be reopened within 70 days,” he said. “We want to get back open so we can serve our customers. We are going to move as quickly as possible.”
The old restaurant is where Adams got his start with McDonald’s in Collier County. As a part-time crew member in Springfield, Mo., he was tapped to train employees for the new store at the age of 17.
“Originally, I was committed to stay here for three to four months,” Adams said. “So 36 years later I’m still here.”
Today, he and his partner, Tom O’Reilly, own 20 McDonald’s stores in Southwest Florida, including all of the locations in Collier County and restaurants in Fort Myers Beach, San Carlos Park and Bonita Springs.
The original store is being replaced as part of a larger plan to improve the local restaurants, which are now geared more toward adults.
The original McDonald’s opened Sunday, Aug. 12, 1973. Adams still has a copy of a business story that ran in the Naples Daily News about the restaurant’s arrival. It was big news in what back then was a sleepy little town.
He isn’t sad about the restaurant closing. While he has a lot of memories there, they are more about the people and the customers that he met along the way.
He remembers the fun he had at the restaurant, how it felt to be part of a team and the opportunities that came to the employees who worked there.
“That’s where it all started in Naples,” Adams said.
The reopening of the restaurant is scheduled for early December.
Before the location opened on Bayshore Drive, Naples residents had to drive to Fort Myers to go to McDonald’s.
Besides Adams, two other employees from the original store still work for his company. Carol Sissman, who go her start as teenager, is now director of operations for the 20 locations. Linda Swanson moved her way up to become a supervisor of five restaurants.
Sissman started working for the restaurant after her mother got a job there. It was a few days after the grand opening. She recalls first being trained on preparing the buns for the Big Mac.
“They had the three-tiered toasters. You had to try to put the sauce, onions, lettuce and cheese on before the meat was ready,” she said.
Back then, Mike Adams was the “meat man,” cooking up the patties.
After getting her start in the kitchen, Sissman was soon trained to work at the front counter.
“I wasn’t really an outgoing person. I was more shy,” she said, remembering her difficulty in talking to customers.
While she’s a little sad to see the old store go, it will be nice to see a more modern store take its place.
She only worked at the store for a few years, moving on to a second one that opened in Park Shore in 1975.
This East Naples store is the third one Adams and O’Reilly have torn down and replaced over the past few years. Stores in Golden Gate and Bonita Springs were also demolished, Adams said.
He said the original store was just too old to remodel.
He and his partner have updated the exteriors of five buildings in Lee and Collier counties in the past year. In the past four years, dining rooms in most of the locations have been given a new look.
The facelifts are designed to bring the restaurants in line with the latest corporate brand identity for McDonald’s, which is more focused on adults. Stores are more contemporary and upscale.
At several stores, playgrounds have been torn down and not replaced. The new store in East Naples will not have a playground, like the old one did.
“I think what we are finding is that kids are going to enjoy the McDonald’s experience even without the playground,” Adams said.
Adams worked at the original store for 17 years. In 1991, he and O’Reilly purchased what was then a six-store franchise.
In addition to McDonald’s, Gulfgate Plaza is home to Big Lots, Beall’s Outlet, Dockside Imports, the newly opened Bravo International Supermarket and other retail stores.
The new McDonald’s will have 40 to 50 employees.
“We farmed out most of our employees to other restaurants in the area,” Adams said. “Most of our previous employees will return with the new restaurant.”
Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden.
Staff writer Tim Aten and correspondent Lance Shearer contributed to this story.
Do you have memories of working in or hanging out at this McDonald's in the early 1970s? Do you have photos from when it opened? Please share your comments below and upload your photos at naplesnews.com/participate.